Tag Archives: new york


From a February 24th, 2017 issue of MentalFloss by Erin Blakemore:

People have found some weird things inside walls over the years, from mummified babies to outrageously rare artwork. Other times, remodeling projects reveal nothing but mouse carcasses or a bunch of dust. This mah-jongg tile, found inside the wall of a former tenement building in New York City, might not seem fascinating at first. But it has an interesting story to tell about the many waves of immigrants that surged into New York during the 20th century.

The piece was found during a historical restoration project inside 103 Orchard Street, a building on New York’s Lower East Side that is owned by the Tenement Museum. The tile emerged when workers sifted through the debris in the building’s third floor. Just one of many unexpected artifacts found inside the building’s walls, it’s an example of the kind of object historians love—a little slice of everyday life.

Though the address 103 Orchard has remained the same since the building was first constructed in 1888, the building and the neighborhood itself changed dramatically over the years. Around the time the building went up, the neighborhood was home to Italian and Jewish immigrants, followed by waves of Puerto Rican immigrants and then Chinese immigrants. Over the years, over 10,000 people lived inside the building’s 15 apartments, a testament to the flows of United States immigration in the 20th century.

You might think that the piece belonged to a family like the Wongs, Chinese Americans who lived in one of the apartments inside 103 Orchard starting in the late 1960s. But it could also have been owned by one of the Jewish families who lived inside the apartment building.

The mystery of the mah–jongg piece reflects the enigma of mah–jongg itself. It’s not exactly clear when the game was invented, or even how it’s properly spelled. (Merriam-Webster prefers mah-jongg.) What is certain is that after gaining popularity in China it came to the United States alongside Chinese immigrants in the 1920s. Despite harsh anti-Chinese laws that essentially banned Chinese immigration, many Chinese people risked deportation and came to the U.S. anyway, sporting false ID papers and, apparently, some mah–jongg sets.

As the game became more popular, it started to show up in department stores like Abercrombie & Fitch. The future purveyor of apparel for shirtless male models (which has been around since 1892) was the first U.S. company to offer the game, importing and selling over 40,000 sets in a single decade.

Fred Astaire and his sister Adele playing mah-jongg in 1926. Image credit: Getty Images

Mah–jongg also became a beloved game among Jewish women. For a while, the game was so popular that you could find mah-jongg books, magazines, clubs, and merchandise seemingly everywhere. Scholars believe that the game not only reflects globalization and immigration, but appealed to Jewish immigrant women as a way to build and keep social networks.

Though primarily played by wealthy and suburban Jewish women, it was popular enough that it very well could have been adopted in tenements, too. The days of mah-jongg–related movies and even ballets is long gone, but it’s actually become more popular in recent years, especially among younger Jewish women eager to learn the game their grandmas loved.

Whether the piece was owned by Chinese or Jewish immigrants, it shows how pastimes and traditions can cross-pollinate—and how a single building can contain remnants of multi-layered histories. And if you want to explore 103 Orchard for yourself, you’ll get a chance this summer, when the Tenement Museum opens a new exhibit there.


While I am off in California I wanted to remind those of you back in New York that Temple Beth-El in Bellmore is holding their second “Mah Jongg Tournament Light,” especially designed for Mah Jongg players who have never participated in tournaments. This is a great opportunity for those of you who want to test the water with tournaments to see if they might be for you (I’m sure they are!). 

There are still a few seats left which means there is still time to sign up:screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-7-04-37-pm


I am so excited about this Stay Strong and Mahj On upcoming event including lunch and Mah Jongg on April 14 at the beautiful – and delicious – Sarabeth’s!  Linda Feinstein is the honorary chair plus we have the best benefit committee! I hope all of you in the tri-state area will attend what promises to be a fun and memorable afternoon.

Please go here to register: www.staystrongandmahjon.org/events we are limited to 100 attendees and you won’t want to miss out.  Great prizes and raffle items along with knowing that your donation is benefitting a wonderful breast cancer charity!

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And much thanks to our dear friend, Lynn Chorn of www.wherethewindsblow.comfor all of her very generous support and caring.


Destination Mah Jongg World Championship is really taking off – there’s still time to sign up for the next 1-day qualifier tournaments in Columbus, Cleveland, and New York in November and December and also the big 3-day qualifier tournament in March in Atlanta – all with a chance to win your Golden Tickets. Here is their latest newsletter

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To join the mailing list, go to Destination Mah Jongg

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Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.39.04 AMAre you ever confused as to where and when the next tournament is being held? Would you like a schedule of Mah Jongg cruises? Have you been looking for a Mah Jongg blog or website to follow? Well, search no more…Fern Oliphant in Tampa, Florida  and Sheryl Perry in Bellmore, New York, have put together a comprehensive website and Facebook page – Destination Mah Jongg that pretty much says it all. Eight qualifier tournaments (along with all policies and rules plus you can actually register and pay right from this site), cruise information, and websites and blogs are all listed with the necessary links. As the website says, “A community for beginners and seasoned American Mah Jongg players, a destination to delight, engage and fill you with knowledge about the game you love to play – “

But the really big news about this website is that the series of 8 qualifier tournaments will lead up to the 1st Inaugural Mah Jongg World Championship in Las Vegas on July 22 – 24, 2016: “Mah Jongg, it’s not your grandmother’s game anymore. In a bold move, Destination Mah Jongg grabs this game by its tiles and offers the largest payday in American Mah Jongg tournament history and announces 2016 Mah Jongg World Championship to be hosted by Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.”

Here’s the official write-up: “Mah Jongg players rejoice and are dusting off their game tables. In the past few years there has been a huge resurgence in the game of Mah Jongg as well as interest for more tournaments. Today’s Mah Jongg play is a long way off from your Grandma’s game. Fern Oliphant from Tampa Florida and Sheryl Perry from 4 Winds Mah Jongg in New York have partnered together and have created Destination Mah Jongg and the Mah Jongg World Championship, soon to be a history making event and company. Destination Mah Jongg will be the host of high stakes Mah Jongg Tournaments around the country all leading up to the Mah Jongg World Championship where the best of the best will be invited to come and play. We proudly partnered Destination Mah Jongg with the Westgate, Las Vegas for the Championship to be held on July 22-24 2016.Destination Mah Jongg’s website (www.destinationmahjongg.com) an aggregator where you can find all things Mah Jongg. A community for beginners and seasoned Mah Jongg players, a destination to delight, engage and fill you with knowledge about the game we love to play. It is a source for Mah Jongg News, Tournaments and Cruises from around the country on an interactive map. It is a place to visit and find all your favorite FB pages and Mah Jongg Bloggers. In coming months, you will be able to find teachers around the country, events around the country, unique Mah Jongg sets and products. Destination Mah Jongg came from the love of the game. Luckily we sometimes get a chance just to do what we love.. We welcome all and hope you enjoy the site and our qualifiers as much as we enjoyed building it.”

Congratulations for a job well done and a website that we all will enjoy!Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.39.29 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.39.47 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.40.08 AM


As promised, here are the recipes from our luncheon on Wednesday.


6 large ripe tomatoes (heirloom if you have them)
2 sweet red or yellow peppers (1 of each is nice)
1-2 jalapeno peppers
1 medium sweet yellow onion
1 large shallot
2 large hothouse cucumbers
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups canned tomato juice (Sacramento)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
Wash and prepare the veggies, core and coarsely chop tomatoes; save the juice. Core, seed and coarsely chop peppers. Peel and coarsely chop onions and shallots. Coarsely chop cucumbers.
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IMG_0774 In a bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, reserved tomato juice, and canned tomato juice.
In the food processor, puree the vegetables in small batches, adding tomato juice mixture as necessary. I like to keep the veggies coarse but it’s OK to puree completely. Depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes, you may need more tomato juice. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!
After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and stir in cayenne, salt, fresh ground pepper, and dill. Cover and chill for at least 4 hrs. It’s always better the next day. I stir and correct seasoning before serving and serve with a small dollop of sour cream. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.
I use a very flavorful olive oil from a shop in Hudson, New York by the name of Olde Hudson (Olio Extravergine di Oliva) and a Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine vinegar.
Okay – this recipe is so easy that I am almost embarrassed to tell you about it. But it is the perfect salad for a hot and humid day – easy to make and delicious to eat!
  • grape or mini heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • spicy marinated bocconcini, herbed olive oil reserved
  • diced rotisserie chicken
  • Yep, you read this correctly – rotisserie chicken right from the market!!!

Pick the bocconcini out of the herbed olive oil. Quarter and transfer to a bowl. Add the tomatoes and the chicken. Drizzle with herbed olive oil and toss gently to combine; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.


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